Life In A Noble Household 1641-1700 by Gladys Scott-Thomson, 1937, analyses the household accounts of William Russell, 1st Duke of Bedford. On page 236 is listed an entry from December 1690 where the Duke pays for the funeral of his huntsman, Thomas Nun.

Paid for a coffin and shroud, etc., for him, with 2s. to the searchers and 6s. for a certificate: £1 5s 0d.

I'm guessing that the certificate was for burial in wool. But what did the searchers do?

1 Answer 1


It would seem that were an early form of coroner -

They would visit the recently deceased and then report the incident and probable cause to the parish clerk.

I'm not sure why they would have been paid direct by the Duke in this instance, as they should have been paid by the parish.

Their title would have been Searchers of the Dead, and they were the people calling "bring out yer dead".

  • 5
    And the Oxford English Dictionary tells me that too: "1662 J. Graunt Nat. & Polit. Observ. Bills Mortality i. 11 When any one dies... The Searchers..(who are antient Matrons, sworn to their Office) repair to the place, where the dead Corps lies, and..examine by what Disease, or Casualty the Corps died. 1759 Coll. Bills of Mortality Pref. 7 Every parish appoints a searcher, whose business it is to examine the corpse, and to report the distemper." Thanks!
    – emrys57
    Sep 15, 2016 at 14:45

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